How can I get the best results out of my Search Engine Marketing campaign?

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We get this question a lot — and the real answer is: “it depends.”

The best way that I can possibly explain search engine marketing, in general, has to do with your ability to properly “tweak” the dials to optimize for your desired result.

Understanding that more clicks = more cost, it’s best to describe the process is visually in this format:

Search Engine Marketing Dials

The "SEM Dials" can be turned to dictate the performance of your campaign. Here, I illustrate all of the moving parts and their impact on certain areas of the campaign's performance.

To view the full sized image that indicates the search engine marketing dials, please click here.

Allow me to explain in short:

  • Targeting Area
    • Geotargeting to an acute area of focus will limit the search volumes, keeping cost/clicks down.
    • Opening it up to more of a wide area of focus will allow for a higher number of impressions, clicks and cost.
  • Max Daily Budget
    • If your max daily budget is low, Google’s algorithm doesn’t give you “preferential treatment,” which means that your ads will show in off-peak times, or in highly competitive time zones with poor ad positioning.
    • If your max daily budget is high, you’re signaling to Google that you’re capable and willing to spend advertising dollars on your campaign, thereby providing you with a “preferential treatment” in terms of seeding.
  • Max CPC Bid
    • If your max CPC bid is low, you’ll receive poor ad position placements, which will translate to less clicks and less conversions.
    • By maximizing your CPC bid, you can (over time) back off once you’ve “earned clout” by proving that your ads are relevant to certain keywords, but a high CPC amount gives you a chance to compete with a new campaign (although the costs will be high at first).
  • Keyword Specificity
    • The more “general” your keywords, the higher number of visitors you will receive to your website, but your conversion rate will drop, and the visitor quality will be more “shopper” than buyer. That’s not to say that the net result won’t be a higher amount of revenue, just that you’re hoping that you can find buyers sprinkled into the mixture of shoppers that you’re reaching, and your cost per acquisition should rise dramatically.
    • The more specific your keywords are, the inverse relationship will be from the above statement. Ideally, you’ve got a mixture of these keyword types, in their own ad groups, with their own budget requirements.
  • Ad Creative Messaging
    • If you’re attracting more “shopper” audiences in an attempt to attract more visitors, your call to action will be more passive in nature (i.e. “Learn more now”). Your conversion rate should take a hit with the increase in traffic, but could overall net better results than if you optimized for lower traffic volumes.
    • If you want to attract more “buyers,” your ad creative will be written in such a way that pre-qualifies the traffic (i.e., “Become a member now with a $25 or higher donation”). Your conversion rate should improve dramatically, but you’ll be sending far less traffic to your landing page.

Does this make sense? I hope so.

— GC

Should I send my email newsletter before my print newsletter?

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Newsletter

Should you send your email newsletter before your print version, or afterRecently, a colleague on our traditional side of the agency asked my thoughts on when they should time the delivery of one of our client's email newsletter against the delivery time frame for the print version.

 

In this case, the content is almost exactly the same. The lone difference is that the email version is an abbreviated version of the printed version.

So, she asked, “What are your thoughts on when we should send it?”, then offered, “We’re thinking we wait about 10 days to time the email newsletter to land nearly at the same time.”

When considering the content, I recommended that she actually send the email version of the newsletter as soon as it is ready, regardless of when the printed version is expected to be sent.

Why? It’s simple: build value for the email version of the newsletter.

There are a few value propositions for organizations to transition to sending email newsletters, as opposed to print, namely that they save on print production and shipping fees, but the most important thing we can do is position the email newsletter as a “first glance” at news — thereby creating a higher incentive for those registering to receive our newsletters in print to consider also registering their email addresses.

This gives us, as marketers, an opportunity to include them in other email delivery types (of course after receiving permission from those registered readers to do so).

It also delivers an opportunity for those reading our newsletters with a chance to get their news more quickly, more easily, and with a message to be “looking out” for our printed version to be delivered soon.

Of course, you need to segment your email file into a couple of groups (where one segment is on both email and print recipient lists, while the other is on an email-only recipient list). A simple change to your introduction copy to ensure the highest level of relevance will be necessary, as well.

That’s it for this week — quick and easy. I hope you enjoyed.

All the best,

— GC

How can I get better results from my banner advertising campaign?

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Banner Advertising

When it comes to launching a successful banner advertising campaign, you need all the help you can get. Here are 8 items that will help you to mitigate your failure rate and increase your chance of success.

I always find it funny that most people I talk to about banner advertisements still think that they don’t work. Whether or not a banner advertisement “works” depends upon what your objective is related to that advertisement to begin with.

As covered in a previous post (“What is the difference between marketing and advertising”), most online marketing efforts are measured specifically by return on investment (ROI). When it comes to advertising, you have to measure its success based upon how it lifts your direct response marketing channels (email, search, radio, etc).

Take a look at my other post titled “The reason why you should continue using banner ads, even if the ROI isn’t there” to get a better understanding of how you should set your expectations regarding ROI on advertising channels, OK?

For those that “get” the value of banner advertisements, let’s take a look at an 8-point list of items that will help your banner advertising campaign be successful.

  1. Set campaign goals
    Any successful campaign will start with the goals and work backwards from there. Define the purpose of the banner ad campaign before starting on your creative, etc. If your message is built to increase sales, the odds are that it will vary greatly from one that is looking to increase brand awareness/recognition.
  2. Placement environment
    Although some research I’ve seen shows that animated banner ads can receive upwards of 2 or 3 times the number of clickthroughs, they are often limited by channel type. For instance, a static (non-moving) banner can be placed in an RSS feed, email newsletters/campaigns, etc, where the animated banner cannot be displayed in such an environment. By understanding the website’s native creative style and designing your advertisement to appear as content that BELONGS with that website as a piece of valuable content will always outperform some annoying banner advertisement with a flashing button.
  3. Call to action
    This might be the biggest mistake that most advertisers run into when they concept and implement a banner campaign. Don’t forget your call to action … if you don’t ask someone to take a step, why would they? Well, they might, but let’s drive them to click, OK?
  4. Visual appearance
    As previously discussed, camouflaging your advertisement as a piece of native content will work well, but if you can’t do that then lean on brighter color schemes. Stay within your brand guidelines, but know that it’s a natural instinct to overlook banner advertising as the web continues to age and become more commonplace with younger generations. You want to stand out from the content … get noticed with flashy colors.
  5. Messaging
    Keep the message simple, short and focused. Don’t provide multiple calls to action, or too much text. Just provide a simple message that when an audience member views, they can quickly determine to learn more and clickthrough to your landing page. Which brings us to …
  6. Landing page
    Don’t send visitors to your website with navigation to the rest of your website. When you have a fish on the line, it’s like setting down your poll and being content with the fact that you got a nibble. Real that sucker in! By mitigating the chance of failure (by setting up a single page, with clear selling value propositions and a conversion point, like a easy-to-fill out form), you substantially increase your chance at converting that person into a customer/donor. It’s important to note that minimizing friction/anxiety factors (like the length of your form, the design of your page, the copy being too long, etc.) – you can massively increase your conversion rate. If you’re trying to get people to opt-in to receive your email newsletter on your landing page – don’t ask them for their social security number, or mailing address. Some prospective customers would argue with me that this is critical information to have on their file, but you can have a strategy in place to collect that information later. Capture their interest now, engage later, move on.
  7. Content Freshness
    Refresh banner ads regularly. Some studies that I’ve reviewed have indicated that clickthrough rates of banner ads start to drop off after 2-3 weeks. Refresh your creative to provide a new fresh look and feel (even if your message is the same). This does two things: (1) appears new to the audience again, thereby giving them a psychological incentive to clickthrough to investigate (even if it is again), and (2) depending on the network, give your advertisements a higher level of priority in the server’s queue of ads to display (especially in a cost-per-click/CPC model). If you’re not getting clicks, ad networks will eventually stop serving your ads and will cut off your traffic.
  8. Testing and tracking
    Data/Analytics > Marketer’s Intuition. Whenever someone says, “I think that ___________”, my almost immediate rebuttal is “Let’s test it!” Look, nobody is a mind reader, especially not through a banner advertisement … so, build a couple of different types of content (which would be your experiment’s “treatment”) and serve it on the same network, at the same days/times, with the same budget setup (which will act as your “control”), and let it rip. Evaluate for at least 5-7 days, and then move forward with the better performing creative set and cut the under performing one. Do it again if you’d like against a third, forth, etc., etc. number of creative sets until you’ve got the absolute best performing ad creative/message. This is your business, make it work for you!

As Peter Drucker (and as repeated by Dr. Flint McGlaughlin from Marketing Experiments) once said:

“Adequacy is the enemy of excellence.”

Always strive for better things for you/your business and you will always be better than when you started.

I hope this helps in setting up your next banner advertising campaign – remember always to track your results (remember my credo, which is “If you can’t track it, don’t do it!”). Track it by medium (banner), or by individual sources (they websites in which your ads were served) to segment, optimize and re-prioritize moving forward.

All the best,

— GC

Should our organization create a Facebook Fan Page?

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Should our organization create a Facebook Fan Page?

Recently, I was asked to compile a strategy document outlining how one of our faith-based non-profit customers could leverage a Facebook Fan Page.

They seemed on the fence as to whether or not they should build a Facebook Fan Page, so as a part of the strategy I developed, I wanted to justify the reasoning behind actually creating one. Below is the list that I compiled for them.

So, without further adieu — let’s take a look:

Ten reasons to create a Facebook Fan Page:

  1. 500MM+ global users on Facebook and counting
    With that kind of population, Facebook is essentially the 3rd largest country in the world.
  2. 100MM+ U.S. users
    American-based accounts make up 1/3 of all Facebook users worldwide.
  3. Average user spends 55 minutes per day on Facebook
    According to Facebook’s “Inside Facebook” study, nearly an hour per day, per user is the average – that’s translates to tremendous opportunity and reach.
  4. Nearly 80,000 websites are now using Facebook Connect
    According to ComScore, 50% of the world’s largest websites, and 66% of the largest US-based websites have implemented Connect, which is an integration point which allows for quick-sharing to personal profiles. This means that Facebook is positioning to become the central hub of the internet.
  5. The average Facebook user has 130 friends
    This is an indication of the tertiary level of reach that brands can connect with to position their brand and increase revenue.
  6. The average Facebook user will “Fan” 2 pages per month
    This is an indication of the likelihood in which you can attract followers, thereby extending your brand’s reach to connect with potential followers/fans of your brand that you otherwise may not have reached.
  7. Only 4% of Fan Pages have 10,000 or more fans
    In a study conducted by Sysomos where they evaluated 600,000 Facebook fan pages, they found that 4% of Fan Pages have 10,000 or more fans. This means that a strong strategy to not only collect fans, but to continue to engage with them consistently and provide them compelling reasons to return.
  8. Customized news feed
    A recent modification to the news feed algorithm that Facebook uses modifies the way in which news is displayed to Facebook visitors. The algorithm will now prioritize content updates to a higher level if visitors have interacted with that person/brand’s updates in the past. This puts a priority upon providing relevant and consistent content.
  9. Wall posts do not impact popularity
    The same Sysomos study showed that frequent wall posts did not positively impact the number of fans collected as much as additional content (pictures, videos, notes, etc.) did. This bodes well for your organization to engage consistently with potential followers.
  10. Real-time search changes have been made
    Facebook has opened their unprotected content/updates to be made available for search engines to index it for display. Google/Bing have already begun including Facebook updates in their results pages, which means that having a Facebook Fan Page will positively impact your organic search efforts moving forward.

I hope this makes you consider why you should create a Facebook Fan Page, but odds are that you already have one in place. Of course, the real intellectual capital in the strategy was centered around how they could use that to identify the following items:

  • Advocacy programs
  • Extended reach
  • Identifying new donors
  • Name acquisition campaigns
  • Collecting new donations

If you need assistance in crafting a customized strategy around how you can do these types of things with your Facebook Fan Page — drop me a note & I’d be more than happy to help.

— GC

What anxiety exists within the most popular marketing channels?

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Throughout the recent years, I’ve been asked by a number of different marketers (both traditional, brand marketers and online marketers) on how they can leverage some of the newer marketing channels (namely social and mobile) to their advantage.

The first step in understanding how to leverage these marketing channels is to understand that your potential customers have a certain level of anxiety associated with providing you with their contact information within said marketing channels.

Marketing Channel Anxiety

In your online marketing efforts, you must truly understand the anxiety that your prospective audience has when it comes to providing information about themselves. If you look at your available marketing channels, you can begin building plans around the marketing channel in an attempt to upgrade people slowly over time for optimum results.

In an attempt to properly depict how I view the building anxiety associated with providing you their contact information, I show in the chart above, the progression that dramatically increases when you get more personal or start infringing upon two factors: (1) where the person lives, and (2) when the target can start incurring additional fees associated with receiving marketing campaigns and messages from your company.

In an attempt to provide more information and detail, I’ll reiterate the information shown in the graph above, within the following paragraphs:

Little Anxiety: Twitter

Twitter is possibly the lowest anxiety marketing channel available to marketers to use at the time of writing this article, but it also has possibly the highest “noise” factor. According to a recent study published by Mashable, 80% of Twitter activity is classified as “conversations” or “pointless babble”, while 15% of activity is categorized as either “Spam” or “self promotion”.

Additionally, the report indicates that Twitter account usage has a 60% abandonment rate — where a user will register for an account on their first visit, then 6-out-of-10 new accounts will never be visited or used again. This means that marketers need to be wary about pumping too much time and energy into their Twitter account activities, but those engaged followers that do use the accounts consistently that choose to follow your brand will indeed be looking at your messages, or “Tweets”.

I list Twitter in the category of “little” anxiety due almost exclusively to the point that it is the truest form of “opt-in” marketing. Adversely, it is also the easiest marketing channel to “opt-out” of, as well. If someone wants to stop seeing your Tweets/marketing messages — they simply unfollow you and that is the end of your ability to connect with them through the channel.

Marketers should build strategies around how to easily opt-in followers (by offering special offers, or exclusive content), but then have a messaging strategy that is focused on driving the engaged Twitter audience to convert in another marketing channel (i.e. “… become a ‘Fan’ on Facebook and receive X”, etc).

Low Anxiety: Facebook

Facebook is becoming the darling of social networks — and rightfully so. In a recent demographic report that I read online, Facebook has grown from 1/4/2009 – to – 1/4/2010 by 144.9% in the United States alone, to reach an overall network size (just within our country) to a total of 103,085,520 accounts. On the network, potential targets provide a number of different pieces of information that can be leveraged by smart marketing professionals for behavioral purposes. Identifying the “fan” page’s favorite music, television shows, books and movies in conjunction with the creation of the Facebook Fan Page gives marketers the opportunity to quickly an easily provide content onto the homepage of every “fan”.

Additionally, you can easily provide “fan” page members with the ability to, within a single click of a “Like” button, to post to their home page (where all of their networked contacts will see updates in their own homepages) your message, post, or Fan Page URL. It is a true viral network that is still increasing the level of its sophistication and opportunity.

The anxiety, albeit listed at “Low”, is still higher than Twitter in the fact that a large portion of people on the network will guard personal information (pictures, videos, etc.) from those that they do not know. This personal information will create pause in the mind of the target before agreeing to “fan” or “like” your content for just a moment. It is also listed at this level due to the fact that they can quickly and easily remove you from their follow list with a single click to remove you from their profile.

Marketers should leverage this marketing channel for advocacy purposes, allowing those that feel passionate about your cause, product, or company to share it with other like-minded friends and family members. It’s essentially the digital version of the most effective kind of marketing of all time: word-of-mouth marketing.

Medium Anxiety: Email

All of you marketers out there that have been developing name acquisition campaigns, or more specifically, online marketing campaigns to capture email addresses that you can continue to cultivate purchasers/donors from, you know of the difficulties associated with email capture. In fact, Convio released their annual Nonprofit Benchmark Study, which showed that the email registration rate from 2008 to 2009 across all nonprofit verticals dropped from 3.22% to 2.12% (which represents a 34.16% decline year over year).

That means that 97 of 100 website visitors will not provide you their email address. This is an extremely high number and usually is an indicator as to the fact that most organizations are not providing compelling enough reasons for website visitors to provide their email address and information.

If you’ve owned an email address for any extended period of time, you know how much unsolicited email you receive on a daily basis. People are tired of inbox clutter … and they’ll become far more picky as to who they will provide their email address to as we continue through the next decade.

To a marketer, email addresses are great. This is not a new concept — it’s been this way for the better part of this past decade. We can deliver highly personalized, well designed and email campaigns into the inbox of hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people at once and analyze click behavior and provide follow-up analysis of how to reengage with anyone that interacted with your message. The only problem is that most people don’t prefer to get your email correspondence, and they’re proving it by declining year after year in terms of their email registration rate.

To collect this valuable information from your prospective customers/donors, you will need to provide a value exchange that is worth it to them. Offer incentives, free resources, access to special areas of your website, etc. in exchange for the email address, but understand that you’re likely going to fail more than you will succeed (unless, of course, your direct response marketing agency is KMA Direct Communications … yes, I know … a very shameless plug).

Moderate Anxiety: Physical Mailing Address

If you don’t know who I am — would you give me your address if I asked for it? Of course not, and in fact, people online are less likely to provide you their home address unless you’re shipping them something, they’re buying something (and have to in order to complete a transaction online), or they’re providing you a donation.

This one is quite obvious, but you would be surprised by those that I speak with that insist they need it. If you do not absolutely have to have it — I repeat, HAVE TO HAVE it — do not ask for it online.

Again, many organizations that I talk to will try to fight me tooth and nail on why it’s imperative that they have the mailing address of someone that wants to opt-in to receive their quarterly newsletter.

I can assure you … people looking to sign up to receive your newsletter email campaign don’t see it the same way.

If you feel like you have to have the mailing address, ask for it in a subsequent follow-up email. Look, if someone has given you their first name, last name and email address — you have the means through which to connect with them a countless number of times moving forward. So, collect that information now … and back fill the other information that you want to collect (mailing address, number of kids, household income, social security number … or whatever else it may be) at a later date.

Don’t force them to give it to you all at once. The odds are against you if you try to collect too much information too early. Play the odds.

High Anxiety: Mobile Phone

Just about every marketer nowadays wants to know how they can incorporate mobile (most notably, SMS/text messages or MMS) into their marketing campaigns. It usually starts by providing an opportunity for visitors to your website to provide their mobile device number into your database, at which point you need to have a system to administer and send a mass SMS/MMS campaign to those numbers. There are a number of FCC hoops that you will need to jump through, but more notably — you’re going to have a difficult time in getting those numbers from your website visitors.

Why? Because the cell phone carriers will, in most cases, charge your audience an additional fee to receive your SMS/MMS message(s). If you send several appeals or messages per month — those fees can stack up quickly and you’ll have a very disgruntled recipient, who will be far more likely to opt-out of receiving such messages than to clickthrough or convert for your campaign.

With the creation of smart phone (iPhone, Blackberry and Droid) applications, you can make special offers and send “push notifications” via your application to those that have downloaded it. You can connect with them efficiently this way, but as is such with any new technology, the pricing and capabilities for an application development firm can vary wildly.

As such, the cost to administer, run and promote mobile marketing is extremely high for most marketing organizations. Yes, you will have about the lowest amount of “noise” in this channel (most organizations are shying away from this until later down the road), but you will also pay a premium fee to reach those contacts via this channel.

On top of all of that — this definitely reigns supreme as the highest anxiety channel. I ask you: What SMS/MMS marketing lists are you on? Probably none.

I hope you found the post to be informational and enlightening and are now prepared to think about your marketing endeavors in a different light now that you fully understand the anxiety associated with receiving information from your organization via each of the aforementioned marketing channels.

— GC

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